In a previous post, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a memorandum of lien foreclosure.

In this post, we will focus on the process of enforcing an Association’s judgment lien.

When an Association sues a delinquent owner, the Association seeks a monetary damages award (plus attorney’s fees and costs usually) from a court.  If the Association wins, the court awards the Association a monetary judgment.

What’s a Judgment? 

A judgment is merely a piece of paper that states that the delinquent owner owes the Association the delinquent amounts.  A judgment is not a court order to pay.  With the exception of child support or tax debts, delinquent debtors are generally not court-ordered to pay debts. Continue Reading Stepping Up The Pressure: Using a Judgment Creditor’s Suit to Enforce an Association’s Lien

In our previous post, we considered one method a Community Association may use to preserve and collect its lien for unpaid assessments: the memorandum of lien.

In this post, we will focus on the process of foreclosing on a Community Association’s memorandum of lien.  As we discussed last time, once the memorandum of lien is recorded, it acts as an encumbrance on the property’s title.  Once recorded, the memorandum of lien will be valid for a period of 36 months.

So what may a Community Association do with a memorandum of lien to collect delinquent assessments?  As we discussed in the previous post, simply recording the memorandum of lien does not necessarily mean that the Community Association will be paid.  However, the General Assembly has provided the Community Association with a powerful statutory tool to enforce its memorandum of lien: the nonjudicial foreclosure.

Continue Reading Persistence Can Lead to Dollars Part II: Foreclosing on a Memorandum of Lien

As of July 1, 2015, the Virginia Condominium Act provides that no condominium association may impose an assessment or charge against a unit owner unless such charge or assessment (a) is expressly authorized by the Condominium Act (see particularly Va. Code Sec. 55-79.83) and/or by the condominium instruments for the community, (b) represents a fee for service provided, or (c) is a fee for a resale certificate, as provided for in the Condominium Act. Va. Code Section 55-79.42:1.

The Common Interest Community Board has the authority to assess a monetary penalty and/or issue a cease and desist order against an association or common interest community manager who violates this Code section pursuant to its powers under Title 54.1 (“Common Interest Communities”), Sections 54.1-2349, -2351, and -2352. (The Property Owners’ Association Act already included a similar provision regarding assessments and charges in Section 55-509.3, which was amended in 2015 to add the CICB’s enforcement powers.)

Continue Reading Association Charges : Be Aware of Legal Restrictions on Assessments and Charges

Will SleethJoin me, Thursday, Jan. 22 (11:00 am – 12:30 pm ET), for this practical collections guide reviewing key issues and processes involved in pursuing outstanding debts in common interest communities. The real estate market troubles have left many condominium and HOAs in turmoil. With fewer members to carry the financial load, every penny counts.  Explore the debtor protections that exist in specific situations, and make certain the collection efforts are lawful and effective.

Topics include: A walk-through of the essential steps of collection procedures; Making certain governing documents support the claim; Finding new ways of legally pursuing the debt owed to the community; and practical tips for staying in compliance with FDCPA.

Who Should Attend: Attorneys, Common-interest community presidents and vice-presidents, Accountants, and Real estate professionals.

Registration fee: $199. CLE credit available. 
Additional details and registration can be found at: www.nbi-sems.com

How should a homeowners association or a condominium association deal with an owner who fails to pay his dues or assessments? There are three main remedies that associations have under Virginia law: (1) file a lawsuit against the owner, (2) file a memorandum of lien against the owner’s lot or unit, and (3) suspend an owner’s privilege to use certain portions of the common area or common element (we’ll address this third remedy in a future post).

Filing a Lawsuit

Associations have a right to file a lawsuit against delinquent owners, seeking a judgment for the delinquent amount. Many associations’ governing documents will also provide that the association is entitled to recover its court costs and attorneys’ fees too. In practice, some courts are occasionally reluctant to award associations the full amount of attorneys’ fees incurred in attempting to collect delinquent assessments, so the association may only be able to recover a certain dollar figure, or a certain percentage of the delinquent amount. While each court (and judge within that court) is different, it’s been our experience that in most situations, associations are usually able to recover most of the attorneys fees incurred in attempting to collect delinquent assessments.

Continue Reading Collections Options Regarding Owners Who Fail To Pay Their Assessments

As any condominium association that has had to deal with one knows, the mechanic’s lien is a powerful hammer to force payment to a contractor. Once it is filed in the land records, a lien often makes it impossible for condominium unit owners to sell or refinance, costs the condominium association time and money (in legal fees) to defend, and generally embroils the condominium association in much unwanted litigation.

The good news is that removing a mechanic’s lien can be easier than you might think. Filing a lien, especially on a large condominium association, is not an easy task. The contractor has to conduct a title search and bring down for each condominium unit. And the Virginia mechanic’s lien statute is full of traps for the unwary. Because the Virginia courts view mechanic’s liens as "purely a creature of statute" and "in derogation of the common law," the mechanic’s lien statute is strictly construed. That is, it must be followed meticulously, or the lien will be invalid. Thus, painstaking analysis is required to ensure that the lien complies with Title 43 of the Virginia Code.

As a result, mechanic’s lien claims can be very defensible. Aside from the critical timing issues, which affect all mechanic’s liens (they must be filed within 90 days, and may only include work done within 150 days, of completion of the work), there are certain property identity and allocation issues that are specific to condominiums.

Here are some important points to remember:

Continue Reading Removing a Mechanic’s Lien (In the Condominium Context) May Be Easier Than You Think

LeClairRyan attorney Will Sleeth was recently quoted in a Virginia Lawyers Weekly magazine article reporting on a Virginia state court case in which the trial judge awarded homeowners their attorney’s fees for prevailing in their suit against their property owners’ association. The article (subscription required) discussed how the ruling was a significant decision in interpreting the provision of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act that provides for an award of attorney’s fees in certain contexts. In the litigation, the association attempted to argue that the attorney’s fees provision of the Virginia Code only applies if an association sues an owner and loses (as opposed to if an owner sues an association). The judge ruled, however, that the provision can permit an award of attorney’s fees when an owner sues his association and prevails.

The article illustrates an important lesson that all associations should keep in mind: associations should be proactive in seeking out legal advice to ensure that they don’t become ensnared in potentially costly litigation in the first place.

Readers should be mindful that this ruling was a Virginia Circuit Court decision, and not a Virginia Supreme Court decision. Many community associations may likely continue to maintain that the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act does not provide for an award of attorney’s fees to an owner in a situation similar to that at issue in this case.

Will Sleeth and Liz White were recently quoted in a Virginia Lawyers Weekly magazine article reporting on the challenges that associations and their attorneys face when attempting to collect unpaid assessments. The article (subscription required) discussed the importance of associations and their attorneys strictly complying with the requirements of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The article illustrates an important lesson that all associations should keep in mind: when an association attempts to collect on a debt, it should consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

On April 17, 2010, LeClairRyan’s Community Association Team will be presenting a free seminar in Williamsburg, Virginia, entitled "Advanced Legal Aspects of Community Associations."

We invite you to join attorneys Liz White, Dan Quarles, Megan Scanlon, and Will Sleeth as they will discuss four topics that board members and managers frequently encounter as they govern and manage associations: 

 

  • Leasing Restriction Amendments
  • Enforcement and Collection of Assessments and Fines
  • Board Meetings
  • Rules and Regulations and Architectural Guidelines

Resource and reference materials will be provided free of charge on a cd.

Again, the seminar will take place on April 17th, from 9 A.M. to 1 P.M., at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Space is limited and registration is required, so please click here to register, if you have not already done so. We look forward to seeing you, and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions.